Desperately Seeking Culture through Salted Caramel Fudge

It’s cultural tradition month at my daughter’s preschool and guess who is at a loss.

Last week we were supposed to bring in a cultural artifact of some sort. Well, my Grandma on my Mom’s side was from Wisconsin, would cheddar cheese with salami in it work? Someone at some point was German but I don’t think I want to claim anything to do with that. I think my great, great Grandpa from my Dad’s side was Greek, but I certainly don’t have a cultural artifact. Nor do I identify with any of those cultures.

“Well, what are we Mom?” My daughter wants to know. It’s not that simple, I tell her. We are a diluted mix of European that gets categorized as boring, culture-less American. To further complicate it we were born and raised in a very culture-rich environment that we can participate in and appreciate but not claim as our own. Even if there were any cultural ties to hold on to, our family has been broken and rebuilt so many times they are long lost now. “Does that make sense?” I ask my 4-year old. [Read more…]

On the first day of Chirstmas… Pistachio Cherry Hand Pies

I love Christmas. Really, I do. The acts of kindness and generosity. The warm fuzzy feeling you get from embracing the true spirit of Christmas. The warm fuzzy feeling you get from the only day of the year where it is acceptable to put peppermint schnapps in your coffee. I love it! But if I’m being totally honest, there is also a side to Christmas that makes me feel inadequate.  Inadequate as an adult and inadequate as a mother.

At the playground the other day I listened to a bunch of moms talk about how their houses were such a mess, there were boxes and boxes of Christmas decorations everywhere! Isn’t that what adults and parents are supposed to do? The Dad’s put up lights, the moms carefully preserve and store each homemade ornament made by each child. That’s what’s going on in all our kids storybooks. Even Fancy Nancy’s plain Jane mom steps it up for the holidays.

As of right now our family does not own one Christmas decoration. I take that back, after the playground I went straight to the store and bought Elf on the Shelf. So we own one elf. Anyone else’s Elf have a strange sense of humor and a fondness for Barbies clothes?

The thing is we have moved so many times in the last 3 years that in an attempt to get light for the fight we shed all those boxes of clutter sitting in the garage. Christmas decor included, sentimental or not. The truth is out.

So now I have to start from scratch which sounds fun in theory but is quite overwhelming in reality. I went into Pier One two days ago to buy tree ornaments and nearly had a panic attack. I was totally unprepared for the task ahead of me. You have to have a game plan and the right attitude. And by that I mean a color scheme, a theme, and a hearty breakfast. You need to know what kind of Christmas person you are. Are you into Santas, or nutcrackers, or snowman’s, or sleighs?

I left empty-handed. [Read more…]

Poached Pears with Italian Cream Cheese and a Mulled Wine Reduction

Fall is so here! I’m sure there are obvious signs of Fall all over the mainland. People wearing boots and scarves, leaves changing colors, the air is crisp and pears and apples are dropping from trees. But here in Hawaii the signs are a little more subtle.

My friend Tori is always the first to call Fall. She was Fall once for Halloween so that makes her an expert on the subject. She can see it in the afternoon light. It takes a keen eye to identify the end of summer by lighting alone. I think I can see it too, sometimes. [Read more…]

Mango Bars with Li Hing Crust


I should really be packing right now. In case you didn’t know, we are moving to Oahu in 8 days. You wouldn’t guess it by looking around my house though. Yikes!

As my friend Sarah said, “I’ve always done my best packing like homework- by busting it out through cramming. It’ll get done- you gotta enjoy life!” Sound advice Sarah, I like your style.

I think I would enjoy life more if I was eating a mango bar with a li hing crust and coconut milk whipped cream on top. It is mango mania around here in case you haven’t noticed. Maybe if I had some of those I would feel more like packing. Let’s find out, shall we?

Besides, I certainly can’t let all this food in my cupboard go to waste! Cooking everything in my house should be at the top of my to do list right now. Siri, remind me not to feel bad about making mango bars.

There, that’s better. Now let’s do this.

Mango bars are just like lemon bars but we are going to sub out the lemon juice and add mango puree instead. We are also going to add some li hing powder to the crust just for fun and to give it a little local flare. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the salty, sweet flavor the li hing powder adds! It’s unlike any pie crust I’ve ever tried and now I can’t stop thinking about the world of li hing powder possibilities!

I might even get crazy and see what happens if I whip coconut milk and powdered sugar together. Oh my!


For the Crust:

1/2 # butter, cubed at room temp

1/2 C sugar

2 T li hing powder

2 C flour

For the Filling:

6 eggs at room temp

2 C sugar

1 C pureed mango

1/4 C lime juice

1 C flour

For the Coconut Whipped Cream (or foam as in my case)

1 can of overnight chilled coconut milk

3 T powdered sugar


First let’s make the crust. Get out your mixer and cream the butter, sugar and li hing powder together with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy.

Cream butter, sugar and li hing powder until creamy.

Then add the flour a half cup at a time. Don’t over mix, it should be crumbly.

Add the flour and mix until crumbly and just combined.
















Dump all this out onto a clean, floured work surface. Gather it into a ball adult play doh style. Good times.


Adult play doh, so fun!

Then using your fingers press it into a pam-sprayed 9×13 baking sheet making it nice and even and building it up the sides a bit.

Put it into the fridge to chill and preheat your oven to 350.

Take a break, clean up a bit.

Bake until lightly browned. Mine was in the oven for exactly 17 minutes, and I was pretty darn proud of that crust!

Now this is important, let it cool down!

Ok, let’s get busy on the filling. Peel and cube one large Maui mango. Put it in the blender with some lime juice to get it going and puree it up.


In your mixer, wisk your eggs, mango puree, sugar, the rest of your lime juice, and flour together until nice and smooth.

Pour it over your NOT hot crust. You don’t want scrambled eggs. Not here, not now.

Action Shot

Into the oven for about 30 minutes. If you shake the pan you want just the middle to jiggle:)

While those are cooling and smelling onolicious, let’s talk about toppings. I wanted to make whipped cream from coconut milk because that’s what I had on hand and because it sounded like a grand idea.

Instead of getting whipped cream, I got foam, which I ate anyway and was pretty happy with. If I had the time I would have tried again but as you know, I have to get moving. So this is going to be sort of a follow what I say not what I’ve done kind of situation.

Here’s what I recommend you do. Chill a can of coconut milk for at least 12 hours. Chilling the coconut milk will solidify the fat and separate it from the watery part. The fat will rise to the top and that is the part you want to whip. Now here’s where I went wrong. Have you ever noticed how sometimes you have to open a can of coconut milk from the bottom?

Yeah, very tricky!

Take note of how the can must be opened before you put it in the fridge to chill because once it has chilled you can’t shake the can or turn it over.

If you do all this without any problems you can scoop out the fatty part and whip it up with your powdered sugar. Let me know how it is!

Sprinkle Li Hing Powder over the top to finish.